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Bruce, You Are Misrepresenting Evangelicals

whining evangelical

I am often accused by readers of misrepresenting Evangelicals in my writing; that my descriptions and criticisms of Evangelicalism don’t apply to a reader’s sect, their church, or to them personally. I have heard, more times than I can count, Evangelicals say: my church is different, my pastor is different, my denomination is different, my college is different, I’m DIFFERENT, DIFFERENT, DIFFERENT! While it is certainly true that not all Evangelicals are the same, often the alleged differences are little more than the differences between ice cream flavors. Same basic ingredients with different flavors and toppings. Evangelicals can whine, bitch, moan, and complain about my writing, but the fact remains that I was part of Evangelicalism for 50 years, an Evangelical pastor for 25 of those years, and have Evangelical family members — including pastors, evangelists, and missionaries — and closely follow the machinations of the Evangelical community. I am confident I have a good handle on Evangelical beliefs and practices.

Over the years, I have perused the doctrinal statements of numerous Evangelical sects, churches, and parachurch organizations. The agreement I find in these documents allows me to determine what Evangelicals believe. For twenty-five years, I pastored seven Evangelical churches, so I think I have a good handle on the “faith once delivered to the saints.”

But, Bruce, Evangelicals don’t agree with one another on a host of theological beliefs! I understand that, but such differences are tangential to the cardinal doctrines (almost) all Evangelicals profess to believe. Thus, Charismatics speak in tongues, Baptists don’t. Holiness Christians believe in entire sanctification, Baptists don’t. Some Evangelicals are Calvinists some are Arminians, and others are Calminians. Evangelicals are all over the place when it comes to eschatology and ecclesiology. Some believe baptism is required for salvation, others don’t. The list of differences is extensive. See, Bruce, you are proving my point! No, I am not. If you look underneath these peripheral differences — often called “distinctives” — you find unity of belief:

  • The inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible
  • The sinfulness, depravity of man
  • The deity of Christ
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The blood atonement of Christ for man’s sin (usually subscribing to the substitutionary atonement theory)
  • The resurrection of Jesus from the dead
  • The second coming of Christ
  • Separation from the world
  • Salvation from sin by and through Jesus alone
  • Personal responsibility to share the gospel with sinners
  • Heaven and Hell are literal places

Anyone who claims to be an Evangelical yet denies one or more of these cardinal doctrines is Evangelical in name only. The fringe of the Evangelical tent is littered with pastors, professors, and congregants who hold all sorts of liberal/progressive Christian beliefs, yet refuse to own what they are. And I get it. Towards the tail end of my ministerial career, some of my beliefs were definitely not Evangelical. Yet, Evangelicalism was home. It was all that I had ever known. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon my metaphorical family, even though I was liberal/progressive belief-wise. Even today, sixteen years removed from walking away from Christianity, I still, at times, miss my family. Not Jesus, not the ministry, but the social connection I had with many loving, wonderful people. 

Often, Evangelicals think I am misrepresenting them when I have the audacity to claim that Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. This argument alone has led to all sorts of objections from Evangelicals who scream from rooftops, I AM NOT A FUNDAMENTALIST! However, as I show in my post, Are Evangelical Fundamentalists?, Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalists both theologically and socially. There’s simply no way to be a consistent Evangelical and not be a Fundamentalist.

Well, Bruce, I don’t care what you say, I am an Evangelical, and I am not a Fundamentalist! You can self-identify any way you want, but just because you do so doesn’t change the fact that your theological beliefs and social practices are Fundamentalist. If you walk, talk, and act like a Fundamentalist, you are one. 

I get it. Evangelicalism is one of the most hated religious groups in the United States. Thoughtful, kind, generous Evangelicals hate what Donald Trump and his merry band of culture warriors have done to our country. However, is the answer to stay on the deck of the Titanic as it rolls into the sea? If you are truly not a Fundamentalist, then join up with sects and churches that reflect your progressive/liberal beliefs and practices. Stop enabling the Evangelical monster. Let it die the death it so richly deserves.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I started listening to an episode of a podcast this morning – “Recovering Fundamentalist Podcast” – interviewing Dr. Dave Douglass, former president of Hyles Anderson College. I’m going to stick with the podcast episode because I am curious what he has to say, but I have heard some problematic things already. I looked up the statement of belief for the podcast hosts, and the statement lists everything you listed above. Why are these guys recovering fundamentalists, I thought? Well, it’s because they believe the IFB goes too far with legalism, and that adhering to all the rules gives people a false sense of being close to Jesus instead of ACTUALLY being close to Jesus. The statement of beliefs specifies that marriage is one man one woman; that there are 2 sexes/genders that are biological at birth, and you shouldn’t change that; that sex outside hetero marriage is wrong; that being LGBTQ is wrong. YET they think they’re progressive because they say you can’t bully, harass, be mean to LGBTQ people even though you disagree with their “lifestyle”.

    To me, they’re still fundamentalist evangelicals in their beliefs. Sure, they drink some beer and “let” females wear britches, but they still believe all these exclusionary, problematic doctrines. To them, they’re progressive. Lol…..

    • Avatar
      John S.

      I think there is a difference between personal belief, particularly with LGBTQ issues, and how you actually treat those who are LGBTQ. I really don’t care what someone thinks or even professes to believe. Many people detest Catholics. That is their right in this country, and I even respect and defend their right to express their displeasure. However, I will not defend anyone’s right to disrupt mass, deface or desecrate Catholic Churches, regardless of whether you feel you have a “right” to do so out of anger due to the Dodds decision (a very harmful ruling IMO) or because you experienced abuse or harm at a Catholic Church. I feel the same way about LGBTQ issues. You have the right to disagree and express disagreement with the orientation, lifestyle, etc. You do not have a right to tear down someone’s pride flag in front of their store, anymore than an extremist activist has a right to bully or compel you to wrap yourself in a pride flag if it violates your conscience.

      Where this gets complicated is when someone claims to be an “ally” of any kind to earn kudos from the society at large, when in fact they really don’t feel comfortable with LGBTQ folks (like these podcasters).

      In my adolescence I was sexually abused by male peers, who I found out many years later may have been abused themselves by older adult male relatives (I’m not 100% sure on that). I am heterosexual, so any discussion about LGBTQ usually triggers the trauma and shame from that time for me. I compensated for my shame and pain by going out of my way to poke fun at those who were explicitly gay. My wife has friends who are in a same sex marriage, so she made it clear my humor was not welcome.

      Over time I met people who were in same sex relationships. I found them to be a lot like myself- intelligent, sensitive, introspective. And kind. I eventually discerned that I was not angry with the LGBT community as much as I was angry at myself for being who I was, and not a good old red white and blue football obsessed American white male who beats the shit out of his bullies (like in the movies).

      Add to that being the first and only Catholic convert in a family that are either liberal secularists or fundamentalist Pentecostals, and I began to minimally understand what it feels like to be quietly and politely “othered” by those you love and care about. You never know how far you can express yourself, and you wrestle with your own sense of whether you have a chip on your shoulder.

      My attitude did a full 180 when for my birthday a few years ago my niece and her female partner bought me a very nice hard cover Catholic Catechism book. I began to cry inside because I knew how cruel I had been in my heart towards LGBTQ persons.

      I say this all to express the belief that many times the “left” for lack of a better term lets perfect be the enemy of the good. Someone who is in process of challenging their own beliefs needs room and encouragement. I know that is difficult to do, and sometimes criticism is needed along with the encouragement. These podcasters may be starting where they are, but with some positive but assertive contact with folks like OC, Bruce, etc, they may like myself grow past that which is holding them back. However if they get the neo-Marxist thought criminal treatment, they may superficially express solidarity, but will continue voting for Trump in the ballot box.

      Thank you as always, Bruce for this forum.

      • Avatar
        Yulya Sevelova

        When going to most churches, you’re certainly going to be around Fundies to begin with. I’d say, Bruce, that you describe Fundie cultures very well ! Why would someone actually think that you misrepresented them ? Good people, and often the bad, it’s been interesting and at times funny, at times outrageous,the behavior of the Evangelicals. I love the way you go into detail and describe situations and people – warts and all. Never a dull moment, I love to see your blog every day to see what you post next.

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